Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President Paperback – 25 Dec 2012
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About the Author
Jimmy Carter was the 39thPresident of the United States, author of numerous books, teacher at Emory University, founder of the Carter Center, and the recipient of theNobel Peace Prize. Carter worked with Emory University to establish the Carter Center, a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization advances human rights and alleviates human suffering in seventy-five countries worldwide. Carter is the only U.S. President to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after leaving office.
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Through his White House diary, the reader is able to revisit the four years of Carter's presidency, a tumultuous four years that adds to the weighty significance of these Scriptural reflections. When I read through this diary book a year ago, one of the most intriguing realizations I discovered was his deep, rich personal faith in Jesus Christ. And this devo book exudes this deepness and richness.
This Christian faith wasn't the obligatory faith that marks many political leaders by nature of our pseudo-Christian nation status. This was a deeply effective faith that permeated much of his presidency--to the point where he would continue leading Sunday School back at his home church in Plains, GA whenever he visited. He also regularly read Scripture, no digested Scripture, and prayed with his wife, Rossylyn. He even pursued presidential initiatives, like nuclear arms reduction policies and poverty relief, out of that deep faith. While it was a personal faith--he didn't go parading it around--it was an effective faith that permeated every aspect of his life, even his political life.
And this is why I was so pleased to see this 366 devotional book, a collection of reflections on Scripture taken mostly from three decades of Sunday School lessons that share the insights Carter has gleaned at 87 on life with Jesus, punctuated by lessons on life itself. It's as if we're sitting in one of the former President's Sunday School classes!
Like most devotional books, it offers one-page reflections on a verse or short passage over an entire year. This particular devo book is divided into four section: Launching, Growing, Serving, and Maturing. "Launching" takes a look at some of the foundations of our Christian faith in order to "launch successfully into the great adventure God has waiting for us." "Growing" builds upon the foundation to help you "grow into the kind of Christian who both enjoys life and blesses others." In "Serving" Carter includes devos that help us see how the "Spirit of Christ draws us into a life of service, not to constrict our lives, but to expand and liberate our hearts and enlarge the Kingdom of God." Finally, at the end of your journey through Carter's Scriptural reflections, you'll ponder the influence "mature follows of Christ can have on our families, friends, neighbors, and world--for the glory of God and the benefit of the people God has made." While helping us journey through this great structure, Carter incorporates not only his own biblical insights but his own experiences from his own journey, as well.
For instance, in reflecting on John 10:11, where Jesus is the great shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, Carter recalls a visit by then leader of the Communist Party of China Deng Xiaoping, and his subsequent visit to China. He recalls Deng's comments on the social changes in China, particularly the distribution of state-owned land to farmers. Deng commented that "Chinese farmers wouldn't stay up all night with a sick hog that belonged to the state. But if it were theirs, they would nurse it throughout the night to make sure it survived." Carter then connects this to Jesus' care over his own people, because we are his: "We do not have to worry that when we get sick or lost or feeble or old, Jesus will abandon us for some better or more perfect person...We belong to him, and he has shown his eternal commitment to us by laying down his life for us on the cross." How true, how comforting.
Carter also brought a theological depth that was unexpected. In one devotional reflecting on the command to "be kind and compassionate to another" from Ephesians 4:32, he reflects on his favorite theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. He incorporates some of his thoughts on justice and agape love in order to encourage the reader to follow Paul's instructions, which reflect the high standards of the Golden Rule, Niebuhr's favorite verse. Elsewhere, in a reflection on Hebrews 11:1, he almost mocks the group of liberal academics known as "the Jesus Seminar" who challenged basic Christian beliefs. Carter responds, "When [I have experiences that seem to contradict my basic Christian beliefs] I prefer to rely on my personal faith, confident that further discoveries will never disprove what I believe or change what makes Jesus' impact on my life so profound." These and other more theologically rich reflections were unexpected, but greatly appreciated!
Finally, I loved the various personal stories that peppered the pages of this devotional. In one meditation on the passover narrative of Matthew 26:26, Carter recalls how important meals were to him as a child and how his family made meal time a special time, even while at the White House. "Even at the White House, we had most meals together. They gave me a chance to get away from being president of the United States and to be the father and husband of my own family." He then reflects on the very special meal known as the Last Supper, emphasizing that "Christ intended for this meal to bring us together in unity and common purpose. The meal is symbolic--and therefore much more than a meal."
Then, like each of these profoundly insightful personal and prophetic meditations, he ends his reflection on this special meal with a prayer: "O Lord, I'm grateful to ponder this timeworn but never dull subject, which I've studied since childhood-when Christ met in a loving way with his disciples, just to have a supper of thanksgiving with them. Help me contemplate in a probing, incisive, and profoundly personal way the deepest meaning of my relationship with Jesus Christ, my Savior. In his name I pray. Amen."
Reading it, gives you another dimension from this complex man. These lessons derive from his biblical teachings of which he still holds in his home town of Plains, Georgia. I have made the trip many times and I can clearly hear his voice as he speaks to the subject on hand.
We have some form of faith, be it formal with a certain religion or simply a belief in a higher power. This book is a candid way that will enable the reader to reflect on his own journey. The stories are poignant and some are sweet and sincere.
This book is perfect for anyone who wants to take a moment away from their busy lives to stop and think about life and our mortal existence. Carter does not judge or is preachy about his faith, he simply shares his life's struggles and will inspire you to do your best as you move along in life's journey.
The daily readings are concise being one page long each. It starts with one scripure verse. The readings are related to everyday life. It takes about 3 minutes to read and gives you the spirtual java that you need for the day. Therefore, it is good for a busy person. It ends with a prayer. The 365 days of reading likely covers all 66 bibles of the bibles.
The illustrations relate to Jimmy Carter's experience as president and as a citizen. It can used as a daily devotion and it can be used every year repeatedly.
I have read some of it myself. We read this in addition to our Upper Room devotion.Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President
What I first noticed was that the pages were not dated like a traditional devotional where it is to be read in one year from January 1st through December 31st. Instead, the pages are number 1-366. The date at the top of the page is the date when President Carter taught that lesson to his Sunday school class which included lessons he taught while president. He has taught Sunday school for 30+ years so he has a wealth of lessons to share. The one thing that could have made this better would be to sit in one of his classes and actually hear him teach the lesson.
I highly recommend this book as one of the better devotionals available today.
Zondervan has given me a free copy of this book in exchange for my review which I freely give.